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PFX Disaster Response Learning: A Philosophy

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

PathFinderEX is an organization of experienced incident managers that realized there is a better way to train and prepare for disasters.


The standard approach for #disaster response training is capabilities-focused, process oriented, and scalable. These components are obviously vital for #preparedness, as they represent the scaffolding for any disaster response entity. However, process oriented scalable capabilities are not the only metric of a ready disaster response system.


Solving Complex Problems

At PFX we recognize that disasters are complex and ill-structured events. Most response challenges arise as a consequence of many inter-agency partners working together for the first time to solve complex problems. This is not just a process or capability challenge. This is also a dynamic learning challenge. Therefore, we asked ourselves one simple question: can we train responders to learn their way out of complex problems?

When you or your agency arrives at a PFX event, you will not find some cookie-cutter exercise plan. Instead you will be part of a scenario that requires your team members to mitigate the challenges that are unique to your organization and mission.

PFX events are designed to be academies of learning. If your team comes to a PFX event, they will receive great training. However, they will also have an opportunity to use their new skills in a dynamic learning environment. Our facilitators are trained using adult learning theory, and every PFX event follows a proven methodology: hands-on training, followed by scenario-based training, and concluding in a full-scale interagency capstone exercise.

You may be asking yourself: but how is this different from any other disaster response training event, or exercise? Two components of the PFX model are key:


1. We get to know your organization and your needs.

2. Everything your team does at a PFX event is integrated with partner agencies.


We recognize that all disasters are effectively man-made. The systems of response that we establish before a major event are the fulcrum of our response. Therefore, our goal is to get to know those systems intimately.


We assess every organization attending a PFX event for the areas of their response that are high risk and highly uncertain, and we design an #exercise scenario that takes those vulnerabilities seriously. That means when you sign up for a PFX event, we begin to consider your unique needs in our scenario. When you or your agency arrives at a PFX event, you will not find some cookie-cutter exercise plan. Instead you will be part of a scenario that requires your team members to mitigate the challenges that are unique to your organization and mission.


Inter-agency Orientation

Also, your team members will be exercising their capabilities in the midst of a full-scale interagency event. Nothing in a disaster happens in a vacuum. Therefore, it does no organization any good to practice without the added pressure of integration, coordination, and cooperation with outside agencies--which is why every PFX event considers these components critical. From the icebreaker, all the way to the capstone event; everything we do at a PFX event is inter-agency oriented.


Preparedness is not just a team sport; it is a community imperative.”

Our number one goal is to be The Best

Preparedness is not just a team sport; it is a community imperative. At PathFinderEX we take the approach that our number one goal is to be the best. If we do this, then we can leave communities better off than they were before we arrived. This philosophy requires that we understand the needs of that community, that we convene the key players, and that we establish a laboratory for learning.


At PFX we do this, and we do it well! We are excited to partner with you as an opportunity to connect another node to our network of learning organizations. Please visit our website for more information, and we look forward to working with you: www.pathfinderex.org.


Also, visit PFX on Facebook and on Instagram.



This article first appeared on the PathfinderEX blog at www.pathfinderex.org.

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